BLOG YOUR DASH – PART III THE ARMY YEARS

I guess I just can’t stop with the “Blog your Dash” theme which I first saw in Lorelle’s blog Lorelle on WordPress.  Here are the other ‘Blog your Dash’ blogs:

As with many young men that have gone into the U.S. Army, this was only the second time in my life that I was leaving home on my own to leave the island (Puerto Rico). The first time I was fourteen years old when I flew to New York City to visit my grandparents. This time, however, the trip was much longer even though I was only going to South Carolina. Since the Army was paying for the tickets, they went with the cheapest fare which meant three layovers. A group of us new recruits left San Juan at noon and arrived at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, at three o’clock in the morning! We were exhausted, hungry and very cold – up until that day, the coldest temperature I had ever seen was 70° F (21° C).
Army Drill SergeantThe first two or three days were spent in the processing center, I remember thinking “hey, this is alright!”, boy was I naïve! After being processed in, we were bussed to our training barracks – and life as I know it changed forever! “YOU HAVE FIFTEEN SECONDS TO GET OFF THIS BUS – MOVE IT!” The yelling did not stop for the next 9 weeks – it went on right up to graduation!

Of all the things that I did in Basic Training, the one that, to this day, I absolutely hate was having to do KP (Kitchen Police). Kitchen Police is a glorified name for ‘kitchen aide’; the kitchen aide is the one who cleans the pots and pans, washes the dishes, peels the potatoes, cleans the floor and does all the menial kitchen work. The menial work includes cleaning (Yeech!) all the grease traps. As if this were not enough, when you do KP, you start at 4:30 AM and end at 11:30 PM – a very long day! Of course, since I hated KP so, I was stuck doing it twice during Basic!

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Korea – Those were the days !!

2nd Bn 71st ADA Batallion HQ - Camp Red Cloud, Korea

I entered the Army in 1973 and before the end of that year I was stationed in Camp Red Cloud, Korea (HHB 2/71 ADA). I spent the next three years there and, in all that time I could not give credit to the incredible tenacity and single-mindedness of purpose of the Korean people. At that time, Korea was still a developing country but, they were determined to move out of that status and into the status of “developed” country.

This picture of a “papa-san” hauling kindling on his back is just one of the many examples I saw there of how these people absolutely refused to be deterred. I worked on a hillside that overlooked the town of Uijongbu and, when I got there, I could count on my hands the amount of streetlights the town had. By the time I left in 1976, the town looked like a sea of lights at night.

Uijongbu is a town that is within 15 miles of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates communist North Korea, controlled today by Kim Il Jong, from democratic South Korea. At the time I was stationed there, it was a town of about 30,000 people and there were a lot of agrarian areas; mostly rice paddies that were worked from sunup to sundown six days a week. For the most part, it did not look much different from the rice paddies you see in the movies.

The one thing that made it different was the sentry towers. I’m not talking about military towers; these were civilian towers in the middle of the rice paddy field for the purpose of watching over and protecting the crop from predators. During the whole cycle, from planting all the way to harvesting, there would always be someone on the tower at night, watching and guarding. I remember thinking that people that have such single-mindedness of purpose are formidable indeed.

I consider those three years like a college education in the university of life, complete with the college style parties, drinking and everything else. Even though at the time I thought I was in the 3rd pit of hell, I have to admit that it was during that time that I changed from a teenager (a boy) into a young man. There were lots of good times, lots of hard times and life changing decisions.


What do you think?
Where you in the military during the 70’s?
Did you go overseas?
What were your experiences?
What impressed you?